Integrative Physiology

Physiology is the field of biology that deals with function in living organisms. The academic foundation of the department is the knowledge of how humans and animals function at the level of genes, cells, organs, and systems. Our multidisciplinary curriculum requires students to take foundational courses in anatomy, biochemistry, mathematics, physics, physiology, and statistics. With this basic knowledge, students can undertake a flexible curriculum that includes the study of biomechanics, cell physiology, comparative physiology, endocrinology, immunology, exercise physiology, and neurophysiology. The department also encourages student participation in research. 

Students completing a degree in integrative physiology are expected to acquire the ability and skills to:

  • Read, evaluate, and synthesize information from the research literature on integrative physiology;
  • Observe living organisms and be able to understand the physiological principles underlying function;
  • Be able to interpret movement and performance data from laboratory measurements; and 
  • Communicate the outcome of an investigation and its contribution to the body of knowledge on integrative physiology.

These goals are achieved by providing a curriculum that comprises required courses and elective experiences. The required courses establish the foundation of knowledge for the discipline, whereas the elective courses provide opportunities to extend this knowledge on selected topics. The elective courses include seminars, independent study, and research projects on such topics as applied exercise science, biochemical basis of performance, cellular and systemic cardiovascular physiology, developmental neurobiology, ecophysiology, environmental and comparative endocrinology, genetics of substance abuse, mechanics and neural control of locomotion, molecular behavioral genetics, molecular neurogenetics, motor behavior, neurophysiology of movement, neuroimmunophysiology, reproductive endocrinology, sleep and chronobiology, and vascular biology. More detailed information is available at www.colorado.edu/intphys

Course code for this program is IPHY. 

Bachelor's Degree Program(s)

Bachelor’s Degree in Integrative Physiology

Students must complete the general requirements of the College of Arts and Sciences and the required courses below.

A grade must be earned of C- or better.

Required Courses and Semester Credit Hours

  • IPHY 2800 Introduction to Statistics—4
  • IPHY 3410 Introduction to Human Anatomy with IPHY 3415 Introduction to Human Anatomy Lab and IPHY 3470 Human Physiology 1 and IPHY 3480 Human Physiology 2 and IPHY 3435 Physiology Lab. —13
  • EBIO 1210-1240 General Biology 1 and 2 with labs or MCDB 1150 and 1151 Introduction to Molecular Biology with lab and MCDB 2150 and 2151 Principles of Genetics with lab—8
  • CHEM 1113/1114 and 1133/1134 General Chemistry 1 and 2 with labs—10
  • PHYS 2010 and 2020 General Physics 1 and 2—10
  • One of the following courses: MATH 1300 Analytic Geometry and Calculus 1, MATH 1310 Calculus 1 with Computer Applications, or APPM 1350 Calculus 1 for Engineers—4-5
  • Three of the following six courses: IPHY 3060 Cell Physiology, IPHY 4600 Immunology, IPHY 4440 Endocrinology, IPHY 4540 Biomechanics IPHY 4650 Exercise Physiology, and IPHY 4720 Neurophysiology—12-14

The number of major elective hours needed to reach the 30 hour major requirement will vary based on what major courses are taken. Students cannot apply more than 45 major hours toward the degree. Contact department for current elective choices.

Graduating in Four Years

Consult the Four-Year Guarantee Requirements  for information on eligibility. The concept of “adequate progress” as it is used here only refers to maintaining eligibility for the four-year guarantee; it is not a requirement for the major. To maintain adequate progress in integrative physiology, students should meet the following requirements:

  • Declare the major by the first semester.
  • Complete the biology and chemistry requirements before the beginning of the fifth semester.
  • Complete the anatomy and physiology requirements by the end of the sixth semester.
  • Students must consult with a major advisor to determine adequate progress toward completion of major requirements.

Concurrent Bachelor's/Master's Program

Concurrent BA/MS in Integrative Physiology

The Department of Integrative Physiology has developed a curriculum that results in simultaneously conferring BA and MS degrees following a five-year course of study. The program has been designed to provide qualified undergraduate students with an opportunity to enhance their knowledge base in the discipline, engage in research, increase their opportunities for employment, and make their applications to medical/allied health professional schools more competitive. Candidates for the program are recruited from the undergraduate population of declared integrative physiology majors during the beginning of their junior year. All interested candidates must apply by the second semester of their junior year. To apply, students must have a minimum GPA of 3.30, one letter of recommendation, and a faculty mentor. Approximately 3–5 of the applicants will be selected on a competitive basis to begin the program.

Once accepted into the program, a student must maintain a GPA of 3.00 in all course work undertaken. By the completion of their senior year, students must have completed the 116 undergraduate credits as outlined in the concurrent degree plan options. Continuing students must register for at least 5 graduate course credits per semester, beginning with the fall semester of their senior year. Students deciding to discontinue the program may do so at any time during their course of study. All credits completed toward the concurrent degree program will be counted toward the completion of the requirements for a BA degree in integrative physiology. 

The curriculum for all students in the first year of the program is the same and is designed for students to complete their undergraduate requirements (116 credit hours) and 8 of their graduate credits. To complete the program in 5 years, students will be allowed to count 6 credits of their graduate work as electives for the undergraduate degree and 6 prespecified credits of undergraduate work toward the master’s degree. See the section on Master of Science Degree for more information.

Graduate Degree Program(s)

Graduate Study in Integrative Physiology

To obtain materials for application and for any additional information, visit the departmental website at www.colorado.edu/intphys/grad.

Entering graduate students must have an undergraduate preparation equivalent to the basic core curriculum requirements in integrative physiology at the University of Colorado or departmental approval of their academic preparation for graduate study. 

All graduate applicants must have an introductory course in statistics or research design. In addition, students should have the knowledge base that would be obtained by completing human anatomy lecture and lab, as well as human physiology lecture and lab courses.

Satisfactory scores on the Graduate Record Examination (general) tests are also required for admission to the department. These scores should be submitted at the time of application.

Deficiencies. If the undergraduate preparation of a prospective graduate student is not adequate, the student may be allowed to pursue graduate study with the understanding that identified deficiencies will be completed. The graduate admissions committee will determine the nature and extent of these deficiencies.

Deficiencies in any area of the undergraduate major may be met by completing approved course work in the subject at CU-Boulder or at other institutions. All entering graduate students with deficiencies must satisfy at least one deficiency per semester until all deficiencies are satisfied. Graduate courses taken before removing deficiencies may be accepted for graduate degree credit only if prior approval of the graduate coordinator has been granted.

Master of Science Degree

Master’s candidates entering the graduate program may select Plan I (thesis: 30 credit hours, including 4-6 thesis hours), Plan II (nonthesis: 30 credit hours including a 3-credit hour research project), or Plan III (course work only) for the degree program. Prior to or during their first academic year in the program, students should identify a graduate faculty member who will serve as their faculty mentor for the development of a thesis or research project (Plan I or II). The scholarly mentor assists the student in deciding upon the thesis and nonthesis options based upon a careful examination of the candidate’s academic record, the goals of the candidate, and the availability of departmental resources. 

Basic Requirements. The following are required of all students for the master’s of science degree: IPHY 5100 Colloquium in Integrative Physiology and IPHY 5800 Advanced Statistics and Research in Integrative Physiology, a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 in all graduate work undertaken, satisfactory performance on the comprehensive exam, and completion of the requirements for advanced degrees as stipulated by the Graduate School. For students enrolled in Plan I, IPHY 6950 Master’s Thesis is required; for students enrolled in Plan II, IPHY 6840 Research Project is required.

Comprehensive Examination. Candidates are required to complete an oral examination covering the thesis (Plan I) or a written summary of the research project (Plan II).

Doctoral Degree

Basic Requirements. Doctoral students must complete 30 credit hours of course work at or above the 5000 level and 30 semester hours of dissertation research (IPHY 8990). The following are required of all doctoral degree students: IPHY 5100 Colloquium in Integrative Physiology (2 academic year semesters); IPHY 5800 Advanced Statistics and Research in Integrative Physiology; IPHY 6830 Professional Skills for the Research Scientist; satisfactory completion of the department preliminary review; and satisfactory completion of both the comprehensive and final examinations.

Advisory Committee. The advisory committee consists of the student’s mentor, a faculty member in the student’s interest area, and either the department graduate coordinator or the department chair. The committee assists the student in planning a program of study. 

Preliminary Review. After the first academic year, usually consisting of 18–20 hours of course work, the student completes a preliminary review by the student’s advisory committee. The committee will evaluate the student’s academic status (GPA of at least 3.00 required), a detailed proposal of the student’s curriculum, written input from the student’s mentor, and other pertinent materials deemed necessary by the committee. 

The outcome of the preliminary review process can be one of three judgments: pass, fail, or probation. A student who passes may continue to pursue the doctoral degree. A student who fails may not continue in the doctoral program. A student on probation must complete any deficiencies determined by his or her committee before continuing to pursue the doctoral degree. 

Comprehensive Examination. The comprehensive exam will be administered to the student within four semesters of entry into the doctoral program. The format of the exam, and the composition of the comprehensive exam committee, will be determined by the mentor in consultation with the student. The examination will be based on a document that is about 20 pages in length and designed to demonstrate the student’s comprehensive knowledge on a topic. The membership of the committee (a minimum of five members) is  submitted to the dean of the Graduate School for approval. Students are given two opportunities to pass the comprehensive exam. The written portion of the exam is based upon the student’s course work and requires demonstration of broad-based knowledge in integrative physiology. Specific areas to be evaluated are determined by the mentor and the student. 

Dissertation. Successful completion of the comprehensive exam advances the student to doctoral candidate status, and the student may then begin a dissertation. All students must complete a formal written dissertation that conforms to the requirements established by the Graduate School at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Final Examination. After completion of the dissertation, a final examination is scheduled. The exam consists of a written submission of the dissertation work and an oral defense. The final examination committee consists of at least five members, one of whom must be from outside the department. Three of the members must be Boulder campus resident faculty.